Tuesday, January 14, 2014

No Limits

by Michaela Wolf, Project Interfaith's Program Intern

I do not think what people believe can be limited, except for by truth which is sometimes hard to come by. People experience truth (for themselves) in glimpses and these glimpses form who we are and what we do. They may not make sense to others or even to ourselves for a long time. So I don’t think what people believe should be limited by any institutional power, be it government, church or family.

Religious leaders of many groups are stepping up to support gay marriage. An Orthodox Jewish rabbi , Shumly Yanklowitz , wrote a letter about his support of gay marriage. He cited the Bible’s emphasis on seeking justice and his empathy as a rabbi for those seeking loving relationships.

Methodist pastor, Reverend Frank Schaffer was defrocked after officiating the same sex marriage of his son. “Schaefer appeared...with more than 40 other Methodist ministers who said they would call on Bishop Peggy Johnson, head of the church’s Eastern Pennsylvania conference, to stop punishing clergy who diverge from doctrine of same-sex issues” (USA Today). Religious leaders like Reverend Schaffer and Rabbi Yanklowitz, who make bold moves and stand up for individual rights, are admirable and help create a world that is safer and more respectful for all people. 

I think this recognition of freedom and individuality by religious and spiritual leaders is huge progress. More steps like this must be made to show that the institution of religion is really an institution in society that honors the spirit and freedom of individuals.       

In Pennsylvania a teacher was fired from the Catholic school where he taught for marrying his long time partner. This same situation unfolded earlier this fall at a Catholic high school in Arkansas.

At the same time, the news reports on child sex scandals in the Catholic church. Often in the past these priests were protected, hidden and sometimes excused from the profound crimes they committed against children.

From these stories I see a teacher being punished by his Religion and his Society for doing nothing but being the person he truly is.  From these stories I see the guilty being protected by a tower of tradition, influence, parochialism and power. I see the innocent abandoned. I see truth belittled.  I see children punished and I see people, brave enough to live as the individuals they are, out of work.

Religion is the societal institution that was meant to foster and nourish spirituality. As our healthcare institutions focus on the body and our educational institutions focus on the mind, so the church focus on the spirit. But when I consider the Church I grew up in, and hear the politics by which it is so deeply entrenched, it is a far stretch of my imagination to seek it out as a place of security that would allow me to feel free. I don’t know that any outside source can really allow someone freedom, be it building, book, or buying power, but I do think that any place and people can be supportive.  Whether I am religious or not, whether other people are religious are not, matters less to me than if we are working to live honestly and respectfully. 

The limits we build are impossible.I think it makes more sense to try to promote honesty and respect than to forever chase the notion of clean control that limits related to belief may tease. We are all different; we all deserve to respect each other, ourselves, and to be respected. To me it seems like when belief or
spiritually-related limits are imposed, a long, dysfunctional race begins and truth is left at the starting line.

Michaela Wolf is the program intern at Project Interfaith. Her interests include reading, writing, running, the outdoors and art. She is excited to work for Project Interfaith because she thinks strong communities need the understanding and respect the Project Interfaith works to achieve. 

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